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What’s at the Heart of a Client Request? How Asking ‘Why?’ Can Get the Job Done Better

Stop, think! Collaborate, and listen. What does the client really need?

Why do clients ask for the things they do? 

Sometimes we forget to ask “Why?” to questions asked by our clients—making it harder to understand what is at the heart of the client’s request. Figuring out what a client’s real needs are is the biggest advantage of asking “Why?” Getting to the heart of what a client thinks they need and what they actually need helps us find the best solution for them.

Why do they want their logo bigger? Does the client need something done ASAP? Why is their request time-sensitive? Do they want a slideshow added to the homepage? Why?

Consider this metaphor: Someone says they need a power drill. They really need a drill. Give them the drill right away! As a digital project manager, we often say, “Sure, I can get you a drill!” But later on, we find out that what they really needed was a hole in the wall, and a better and/or more efficient solution would have been a sledgehammer. 

GIF of a clip from the Family Guy tv show showing characters using a sledgehammer to make enough room for a big sandwich to go through a doorway

There might a better solution. A quick slice in half could keep us on budget.

The client didn’t know the best solution to their problem. We could’ve used our expertise to recommend a better tool, but we didn’t ask why they needed that dang drill.

Why is asking why so important in digital project management?

1. If you don’t know what your team is supposed to do, they won’t either. Sending them copy/paste conversations directly from the client gives them more work to do and is often just plain confusing. 

2. Your team is made of creative professionals with great ideas. Bringing them the problem instead of the solution gives them an opportunity to give their best recommendation and provide value for the client.

3. You care about the end result. When you ask more about the motivation or “why” behind an urgent request, you show the client you care about the situation they are in and build trust.

Asking Why the Right Way


Don’t rush. Give yourself the time and mental space to process the client’s request and see if you understand why.


What details do you have about what they’re trying to do, where they’re trying to do it, and why do they need it? Do you have all the answers you need? 


Clarify the request with the client. Can you repeat their request back to them in your own words? Then you’ll know which resources to bring in to offer effective solutions.


Now that you have all the details, you understand the request, and you’ve presented the challenge to the team and gotten their solutions, you’re able to confirm that the original ask is the best course of action or make an alternate recommendation.


Don’t be afraid to push for the best solution. Push back on the client and the team (with love) until you feel like you’re getting the best solution to the problem. 

GIF of Ryan Gosling's character in the movie The Notebook

Be persistent! Push for the client's real needs and motivations

Remember, the client hired your agency because you are the expert professionals. Stay true to your experience and beliefs about what will be best for the client—whether it’s the sledgehammer or the drill.

Stacey Bailey
Director of Client Services & Popcorn Purist
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